This is a guest post by Paul Whaley. Paul is the Lead Teaching Pastor of Summit Crossing Community Church. He has helped to lead out in transitioning Sc3 community groups from primarily being inward focused to becoming missional communities over the past 5-7 years. In addition to this, Paul spends much time investing in pastors of new church plants in the Southeast, helping them grow as pastors, husbands, fathers, & leaders. Paul serves on the Network leadership team for A29 and oversees the Alabama/Tenessee A29 Region. Paul is married to Brandi and they have 3 children.
By God’s grace, our Missional Communities are shifting from holding tanks of believers to active pockets of missionaries throughout our city.
Summit Crossing Community Church launched 14 years ago with the purpose of seeing people worship and grow in Jesus through authentic community. It was for that very reason we put the word “community” in our name. We planted the church with minimal experience in building authentic community—all we had was a somewhat over-simplified view of Acts 2:42-47. In our naivety, we thought if people simply committed to a small group of believers, the rest would follow. The priority became creating safe places where people could be known and know others, assuming everyday mission would be a natural fruit. We assumed wrong. As a result, our vision was actually developing consumers instead of missionaries. While we succeeded in forming safe places, we failed in cultivating a culture of disciple-making.
In 2008, the Lord began to reveal the depth of the gospel to me in ways I had never experienced before. It was in this same season I was introduced to the idea of Missional Communities. How had I missed this? was the question racing through my mind over and over again as I sat and listened to Jeff Vanderstelt teach. By the end of the conference the damage had been done: the idea of Missional Community had completely invaded my soul. Returning home, I immediately called our elders together and initiated a conversation that proved to be the catalyst for the transition of Summit Crossing. While we have learned many lessons over the years of transitioning our local church, there is one in particular that I want to share with you.
Overcoming the barrier of Sunday morning growth
One may wonder, Why is growth of the Sunday morning gathering a barrier? Let me be clear: we love gathering around the gospel weekly to celebrate Jesus and submit ourselves to the Word. What I’m referring to here is the responsibility—and challenge—of connecting new attenders into existing Missional Communities. At Summit Crossing, we believe there are two doorways into our community of faith. One is through our front door on Sundays and the other is through the door of our Missional Communities. Both environments are designed for multiplication.
Early in our transitioning journey, we decided to limit any competing system or ministry that would conflict with our Missional Communities, which we viewed as our primary vehicle for disciple-making. In our quest to protect against competing systems, we ended up hindering the effectiveness of the very Missional Communities we were trying to protect. The surge of believers entering Missional Community with a limited view and understanding of what we were trying to accomplish had become a barrier, rather than a springboard, to mission.
Notice I said believers. When a not-yet believer enters a community, it can actually strengthen the mission. However, when believers from different church backgrounds enter into Missional Communities, they often import their own expectations based on years of church experience. Make no mistake, these men and women genuinely love Jesus and want to follow him. However, we began to see that our lack of intentionality in placing them into these groups actually hindered the vision of living as a family of servant missionaries.
In 2016, we implemented a new process for integrating Sunday morning attenders into the life and mission of the church. Instead of jumping right into Missional Community, we have introduced a new middle environment where we walk through the vision of community on mission. This has been a game changer, and we look forward to seeing gospel fruit from this in the years to come. By God’s grace, our Missional Communities are shifting from holding tanks of believers to active pockets of missionaries throughout our city.
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